It's not just that I hate ice cream, it's that resorting to such stereotypes belittles the notion of love. It turns it into the stuff of fantasies - the naïve hopes of a pitiful caricature of a woman. In our modern society, where for the first time in history more people are free to love and be loved as they choose, it's appalling how much we buy into this view of love.
Taking my group of friends as an example, I see it happen all the time. When we talk about love, we tend to do it in a snarky cynical manner. Phrases commonly overheard are:
- "Not that I believe in soulmates, but..."
- "It was so cheesy, I don't know why I'm even talking about it." (In reference to a romantic thing a love interest has done.)
- "I'm in the mood for something silly. Let's go see a romance!"
- "That relationship will never last. Passion fades, you need something consistent."
Even I'm guilty of it. When referencing my ex-boyfriend, my sole brush with real love, I normally laugh the relationship off as my attraction to exotic, well-dressed men with tortured pasts and addiction issues. Yes, that does sum up a big part of the relationship, but it was more. We were mismatched in many ways, but I have no doubt that we loved each other. It wasn't the sort of happily ever after of fairytales, but I don't blame that on love, I blame timing. If anything, love in the face of such issues proves to me that it does exist.
So, why am I ashamed to admit my belief in romance? Why, when people categorize happy endings as the stuff of fantasies, do I nod along? Countless times, I have sat idly by while people defended their love of the romance genre by portraying it as escapism.
The truth is - I don't buy that.
I don't think movies and books with happy endings are any less real than hard hitting crime dramas. People sit through movies with epic car chases and bank robberies, without questioning the validity of such stories. But make a bunch of critics watch a romantic comedy and they may praise it, but it will be backhanded for sure. The writing will be great for a romance; the acting will be great, in spite of the shmaltzy plot line. In literature, Romance is the one genre that is consistently berated for its formulaic writing. Yet, do mysteries not always involve solving a crime and fantasies consistently feature involved world-building? Is boy-meets-girl any more formulaic? It's all in reader expectations of the genre, not some masterful formula.
From here, my argument quickly devolves into a gender politics discussion, which could easily turn into a 500 page tome. (Essentially: why is love, a phenomenon closely associated with the feminine mindset, so mocked when both sexes experience it?) But, this is not a textbook, it's a manifesto.
True love is not a myth, it is a fact. It has nothing to do with wedding dresses or naïveté or even red cartoon hearts. Love is not just for the dumb, the dreamers, the little girls, or literary characters. It is for everyone. It is two people finding a deep, incandescent emotional connection. Love doesn't automatically produce any ending -happy or tragic. Love is. That's all. The ending is what we make of it and every relationship is different.
And, in keeping with that spirit, I give you my new set of rules to live by. I will no longer hide my romanticism in the closet, ashamed to be thought naïve or empty-headed. From now on, I am a romantic - fiercely so.
The Romance Manifesto
A Guide for the Defiantly Optimistic
Followers of the guide will practice the prescribed rules in their daily lives, spreading the belief in true love and arguing against the misguided stereotypes of romance whenever possible.
- Never belittle love, soul-mates, happy endings, or any other classic tenet of romance. They may not exist for every couple, but they do exist.
- Defend romantic love to the cynics, not as a naïve hope, but as a universal truth.
- Seek out love in your own life. Whether in strengthening existing relationships or staying doggedly open to new relationships.